ESPN public editor acknowledges #Deflategate “missteps”

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For more than a year, ESPN had never admitted any responsibility for its role in the rise of the rigmarole known as #Deflategate. Now, on the same day the case heads to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on the question of whether quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension will be upheld, ESPN public editor Jim Brady has published a #longform assessment of the network’s mishandling of the situation.

Under a fairly innocuous and somewhat convoluted title (“Lack of transparency on Deflategate made journalism tougher to judge”), Jim Brady delicately chastises ESPN for the original report that turned a curiosity into a hashtag. It’s strong enough to be regarded as an acknowledgement that the network erred, but it’s not as strong as it could have, or should have been.

As Jim Brady notes, the story first emerged not with ESPN but with Bob Kravitz of WTHR in Indianapolis. But Kravitz’s report — that the league was investigating the possibility that the Patriots deflated footballs in the January 2015 AFC title game — was completely accurate; an investigation was happening. The ensuing ESPN report that 11 footballs were underinflated by two pounds each created a collective presumption that someone had deliberately removed air from the balls, opening the door for an independent investigation, in the same way the Associated Press report in September 2014 that the NFL had received the Ray Rice video before it was published by TMZ justified an independent investigation into the league office.

Chris Mortensen, the ESPN reporter who broke the report that 11 footballs were underinflated by two pounds each, currently is battling Stage IV throat cancer, and we continue to wish him well. At this point, it isn’t about Mortensen as much as it’s about ESPN and the NFL. (Indeed, the information could have been leaked to any of ESPN’s many NFL reporters.) Whether from Mortensen or Adam Schefter or Ed Werder or Josina Anderson or anyone else, the league saw the ESPN report and did nothing to clear the air (despite aggressive efforts by at least one member of the media to get the real numbers). Then, after the Ted Wells report was published last May with the real numbers buried in the document, ESPN never acknowledged the erroneous report or the more troubling reality that someone in the league office had given false information to ESPN. (The same false information also was given to Peter King of, but it was the report from ESPN not the report from King that sparked the controversy and set the stage for someone to conduct a scorched-earth probe of emails and cell phones.)

In the lengthy, navel-gazing mea culpa, Jim Brady never puts it as bluntly as he should have: Someone at the league accidentally or deliberately misrepresented fact to ESPN, the NFL never corrected the information, and ESPN both clumsily tried to ignore the fact that the information was false and stubbornly doubled down on the notion that the information was substantially accurate.

“To those looking for a smoking gun around some kind of ESPN-NFL collaboration in impugning the Patriots, I don’t have it,” Jim Brady writes. While he may not have a “smoking gun per se,” the litany of instances chronicled in his story creates strong circumstantial evidence of institutional bias in favor of the NFL and/or against the Patriots. The clearest evidence, in our view, is the chronic absence of even the slightest amount of public frustration, anger, or indignation that someone at the league office had lied to ESPN in an apparent effort to justify an investigation that ultimately found proof of something unusual but that never produced a “smoking gun per se” of cheating at the January 2015 AFC title game, or anything even remotely close to it.

The only item that counters the existence of a pro-NFL/anti-Patriots agenda within ESPN came in September, when Seth Wickersham and Don Van Natta, Jr. produced an article that provided new information about the league office’s mishandling of Spygate, and that suggested (persuasively, in Jim Brady’s opinion) that the NFL’s aggressive pursuit of the Patriots in #Deflategate was “motivated by a need to appease the NFL owners” who believed Commissioner Roger Goodell didn’t hit the Patriots hard enough in 2007. That story made both the Patriots and the league look bad, but it didn’t make the league look as bad as it would have looked if ESPN had declared to the world what anyone paying close attention to this odyssey now knows. The NFL failed to tell the truth to ESPN about the PSI readings, directly with the initial leak and/or indirectly by never issuing a statement or a tweet that ESPN’s account of 11 footballs being underinflated by two pounds was flat-out wrong.

Jim Brady found no “smoking gun per se” regarding ESPN-NFL collaboration, perhaps because he didn’t notice the smoking gun that has been hiding in plain sight since two days after the Patriots beat the Colts for a berth in Super Bowl XLIX. A grossly erroneous report was made by ESPN, the NFL said nothing about it, and ESPN arguably expanded its perceived duty to be a good network partner to include taking the bullet for the league office’s various errors and omissions.

69 responses to “ESPN public editor acknowledges #Deflategate “missteps”

  1. A company-wide campaign with the goal of deceiving the public and smearing one person should hardly be classified as “missteps”.

  2. If your coach is a cheat, your team is a cheat, it takes hardly anything to suspect your qb is a cheat. Moral is don’t cheat and you don’t have to worry about any of this even though I’m sure Brady did do it.

  3. ESPN is a has-been. Plenty of alternatives to get sports news.

    Sports center nothing more than a shill for espn programming.

    They carried the league’s water against the Pats.

  4. They acknowledge “some missteps”, but this still falls far short. It still isn’t an apology. ESPN shifted from sports reporting to “shock jock” type reporting. It wasn’t important for the report to be accurate, it was important for it to be first, and to be shocking, to get attention. If I wanted that I wouldn’t tune into ESPN. Still, ESPN just doesn’t get it. Lose the drama, and get back to the facts

  5. Over $20 million has been spent on #deflategate. Think about that for a second.

    20 Million Dollars. Think about what the NFL and the NFL Players Union could have done instead of spending $20 million on “independent reports”, legal briefs, trips to court, etc.

    Meanwhile the Goodellbot will never admit how badly he handled this situation. Integrity. Lead by example Mr. Commissioner. Lead by example.

  6. Missteps…lololololol.


  7. Too little too late BSPN…your network is floundering precisely because of garbage like this; combined with an emphasis on #HotTaeks over honest and thoughtful journalism.


  8. I suspect that their ratings within the New England region have plummeted and this is only a reaction to that.

    I know that I don’t watch them any more after this stuff.

  9. ESPN and NFL co-conspirators in an effort to defame Brady and the Patriots. I hope Brady names names and sues the hell out of both!

  10. Funny how ESPN had to get a memo out to its employees reminding them to get their facts straight reporting on the Patriots and issues around the team.

    Nah, no bias here. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.


  11. So ESPN doesn’t blame ESPN or its multi-billion dollar financial partner, the NFL? I’m shocked!

  12. They acknowledge “some missteps”, but this still falls far short. It still isn’t an apology. ESPN shifted from sports reporting to “shock jock” type reporting. It wasn’t important for the report to be accurate, it was important for it to be first, and to be shocking, to get attention.


    All about the HOT TAK3Z instead of facts.

  13. After the refs inspected the football during pre-game, a Patriots employee with the well known nickname of “The Deflator”, ducked into a private room with the footballs. An investigation found that the balls had been deflated and Tom Brady most likely was involved. Every QB who’s ever played the game says that nothing is happening to those footballs that the QB isn’t engineering. The Patriots are well known for having previously been caught cheating. I’m sorry, but in America, you’re guilty. It’s not ESPN’s fault. It’s not the NFL’s fault. The Patriots got caught cheating. Everyone outside of New England sees that plain as day. Even the Patriots’ owner fessed up and paid the fiddler. We’ve seen start football players challenge things in court and get away with them. Hey. It’s worth a shot. But nobody’s buying it, even if the judge has sympathy for the player.

  14. BSPN must be feeling the pinch. Not trusted as a news source anymore, and can’t muck rake as well as TMZ either. Our half dozen die hard Deflategate trolls are probably unpaid BSPN interns trying to convince themselves the ship isn’t sinking.

  15. ESPN loses credibility by the day. There’s no way they didn’t collaborate with the league. They would have us believe they’re a league scapegoat, but if that were true, shouldn’t they be able to tell us specifically who in the league office fed them the false information? It didn’t just materialize by itself. Unless it did.

  16. Smashed cell phone, “The Deflator”, end of story, all the rest of the talk doesn’t even matter once you put those two things together.

    Tainted 4ever, Tom Shady #GCOAT

  17. Looks to me that ESPN is trying to correct and distance themselves from this story out of fear of being brought to court for defamation.

  18. Kraft and Brady should each sue BSPN for libel/slander for a billion dollars. Disney will settle faster than it took Star Wars to reach that amount at the box office.

  19. One wonder when anyone will admit to the “misstep” that was Rodney Harrison…he seems to have disappeared without a trace or an explanation…

  20. I thought this whole taken the balls to the washroom was debunked ages ago but I have seen it referenced here several times today. For those of you who don’t know or pretend not to know the clown was in the washroom with the balls for 1 minute 21 seconds.

    Go ahead and grab a ball and see if you can deflate it in that length of time. Perhaps you can, can you do 11? Perhaps he just threw the balls down and took a pee. Too easy for you grassy knollers hey? LOL

  21. The smear campaign against the pats has already been well documented by multiple journalistic investigative sources. The scientific community has universally debunked the pseudo science used in the wells report. A federal judge went out of his way to point out how flawed the “evidence” the nfl used even though that wasn’t what the appeal was about and why he upheld it, and some loony tunes still think the nfl has a shot of winning this. Hilarious, just hilarious!

  22. You may believe that professional wrestling is real.

    You may be sure that NBA officiating is fair and unbiased.

    You may even think that the Easter Bunny is real.

    But NOBODY should be fooled into thinking that ESPN is a legitimate news source.

    Corollary: If you are a New England sports fan then you do not watch ESPN.

  23. Wonder how much of this was due to introspection/guilty conscience at ESPN and how much of it was a olive branch or even confidential settlement with the Patriots Franchise?

    That being said, I too wish Mort well.

  24. I really wish people would look at the plain facts instead of drinking the NFL/ESPN kool-aid.
    All these so called allegations are just that, allegations.
    Why has public opinion turned into the innocents for the Patriots? Because people and journalist are waking up and coming to the conclusion that this was nothing more than a good old fashion witch hunt.
    As far as why Brady and the Pats are hated? ok, so why has Brady’s jersey been selling like hot cakes after this happened?
    The only people who hated the Pats before are the ones who will always hate the Pats.
    You should concentrate on your own team and ask them why your team is a joke. (JETS, BILLS, DOLPHINS, COLTS. ect.)

  25. Too little to late.ESPN is an NFL business partner.

    If you expect that you are getting unbiased and fair reporting of any facts to do with NFL you are delusional.

    ESPN carries NFL water. That is just a fact.

  26. The reality is that the Commissioner of the NFL himself has been caught lying and fabricating a scandal to tip the balance of power in the NFL in favor of certain teams and owners – and against the Patriots – without any evidence (as they admitted in court)

    As sports fans all we want is a fair and even playing field

    Thanks to a corrupt and incompetent Commissioner, the NFL itself is unfair and everyone now knows it

    The owners adopted a rule that says the NFL Commissioner “shall be a person of unquestioned integrity”

    I challenge all – or any – NFL owner to publicly affirm his belief that Goodell has “unquestioned integrity” after he has now been caught lying to two federal judges and was the source for false information to ESPN in an effort to frame Brady

    If they cannot make that statement and back it up then they have an obligation to follow their OWN rule and get an honest commissioner and front office

  27. .
    Mistakes were made………. and a bunch of other random backtracking malarkey, designed only to exonerate themselves .

    Way too little, way, way, way too late.

  28. Too little too late by ESPN. Florio dominated ESPN on this story every step of the way. ESPN even rooted against the Patriots with their legal analyst Roger Cossack rooting on Roger Goodell. Just bad coverage for a full 13 months.

  29. I do not watch, read, or listen to anything ESPN except Monday Night Football. My time is too valuable to waste on their form of journalism.

  30. In light of all the evidence provided in the article it is more probable than not that the NFL was generally aware that it gave false information to ESPN in an attempt to damage the reputation of the franchise, staff and personnel.

  31. I agree:
    Goodell Must Go

    So many missteps. None more glaring than when he destroyed evidence in Foxboro 4 days after softly ruling on biggest cheating scandal NFL will ever have. And I bet Roger spent about $12,500 on that -what- week long Spygate investigation.

    And now Roger is $12 million and 15 months into this stupid scandal that he “Marcia Clarked” and it’s not even over. What a joke.

    Kraft accepting the draft picks removal and fine sure does make one scratch their head….?

  32. Jim Brady points to Outside the Line’s “hours of film study” on the Patriots. That “film study” boiled down to 2 observations:

    – Belichick’s psychic powers caused Marshall Faulk to run out of bounds on a punt return.
    – A vivid description of a red zone play where the Patriots knew where Marshall Faulk was going and triple covered him… but never actually happened and isn’t on the tape.

    No one who champions this report as quality journalism has ever actually read it in full.

  33. I don’t say it often, but well done, Florio.

    I am not a Patriots fan and have zero connection to the team emotional or otherwise. But what happened here on the part of the NFL and the Media is disgraceful. The Patriots should receive their draft picks back.

    There’s still more to this story, specifically why the NFL and Goodell have been so determined to punish the Patriots despite the evidence being so weak. I would like to see ESPN and Peter King try to at least partly make up for this mess by doing their journalistic duty and get to the bottom of why this all happened.

    I’ve said before on here many times that there’s more to this story than we know and I still stand by that.

  34. Pats were found guilty that is why they have no first round pick this year. There is no need for ESPN to apologize.

  35. The NFL screwed up on this big time but Goodell still has his job and his big paycheck. He should have been fired after he attempted to punish the Patriots for something they didn’t do.

    ESPN should have fired Chris Mortensen for his deliberate leaking of the bogus info about the PSI numbers and then he didn’t even bother to backtrack when he knew he was wrong.

    Ultimately, it’s the Patriots that have to pay the price for this in terms of lost draft picks and a sullied reputation. I still think they should sue the NFL and ESPN for defamation. I think this was a personal agenda and sting operation by Goodell and ESPN in cahoots with each other and it stinks.

  36. 2 comments:

    1. It is comforting to notice that the same 6 guys who have haunted every Pats thread are still alive and spouting the same lunacy.

    2. It is no longer even news that nothing happened the night of the AFCCG. It is common knowledge that the NFL targeted the Pats. produced a $5MM report that was proven to be both biased and inaccurate, and conspired with their media partners to perpetrate an attack not only on the Pats, but the best player in the league. Of this there isn’t even a speck of question.

    In fact the only questions left unanswered is WHY are the Pats not going to have a first round pick in the upcoming draft…..and why isn’t the media up in arms about it.

  37. This isn’t about mis steps. This about the absolute conspiracy on the part of the bungling idiots at NFL HQ lead by the Chief Bungler Goodell and their subservient lackeys at ESPN to ruin the reputations of the Patriots Bob Kraft and Tom Brady. The fuel for this was and is pure hatred and jealousy of the Patriots. The most amusing part is that this collective group of morons didn’t even have the skill to pull it off. They are way out of their league and wound up tripping all over themselves in ways that nobody could have even dreamed. And in their desperation to somehow salvage their sagging reputations continue to sink deeper and deeper into the swamp of lies they have created.

  38. ESPN is a watered down, corporatized shell of its former self. Once they got rid of Grantland, the only division of the company that rose above the level of the “hot take” it was over for me.

  39. To all the people who claim that they “know” the Patriots cheated, explain to me why the science didn’t back up your claim?! All the other evidence in this case is circumstantial, meaning that it is open to interpretation and debate. While the only real piece of evidence are the readings from the game balls that day and they don’t support the idea that the Patriots tampered with the balls. So if the Pats did cheat, as a lot of you are certain that they did, why didn’t the most important and reliable piece of evidence back you up. Please explain to me how it is possible for the Patriots to have cheated if the balls proved scientifically that they weren’t tampered with. If they had taken air out of them it would have shown up and been easy to see. That’s the real “smoking gun”. It’s amazing how many of you wont answer this simple question

  40. Can’t believe how butt hurt folks still are over this. One ball was in the range reported. And most others were only off by 1/2 PSI.

    Cheating plain and simply but lets detract and focus on semantics as is usually the case.

  41. Funny how he didn’t bother to mention that, during the 14 days between the AFCCG and the Super Bowl, ESPN spent the first 10 days bringing in every Patriot hater they could find to bash the Patriots and Tom Brady on every TV/Radio station they own. Tedy Bruschi, who is normally on NFL Live Thursday and Friday throughout the season, didn’t appear the first week, wasn’t seen until Thursday day 11. ESPN out and out suppressed anyone who might even say “slow down until the facts are known”, you know, like they have done with Peyton Manning the past few months. Have to point out to some of you Bozos that nobody was questioning Tom Brady’s integrity before Deflategate, why didn’t he get the benefit of the doubt? Because you can’t handle the fact that Brady and the Patriots have always beaten your teams fair and square, that’s why.

  42. Ummm…heads up. The investigators did not find the balls had been deflated. There was no smoke and hence no smoking gun. Don’t let the facts interrupt your opinion. Do a lot of people laugh when you talk and say…:this guy is rarely right and never in doubt?” feel free to own that.

  43. So ESPN’s response more than a year later is a disingenuous non-apology supported by quotes from a bunch of bold-faced liars from within upper management? Who’d of thunk it?

    Spare us. ESPN knew exactly what they were doing (and are continuing to do).

  44. The media is a powerful presence in our society, able to sway the opinions of the masses, yet some organizations take that responsibility about as seriously as The Cat In The Hat.

  45. Re: the deflator as a smoking gun.

    The nickname was used in ONE text 7 months before the AFC Championship game.

    He called himself that not anyone from the Patriots.

    The Patriots turned the phone with that text over to the NFL.

    He was interviewed 4 time but NEVER ONCE asked about that one text. Why???????????????? was this the case. No one has ever explained this misstep by Wells and the NFL investigators.

  46. When all the dust settles, the Patriots will still be super bowl favorites no matter what happens. Spoiled in Patriot nation, spoiled eggs elsewhere.

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